Banbridge Cycling Club’s Mark Downey says his Irish bronze medal is up there with his biggest achievements so far.
The Dromore man, who turned 19 last week, claimed third place in the 2015 Irish National Cycling Championships Time Trial in only his first year at Under 23 (or Espoir) category.
He also placed fifth overall, just 25 seconds off a senior medal and beaten to it by cycling legend and former world champion Martyn Irvine.
Already rubbing shoulders with the greats, Downey is certainly making a name for himself and is hoping he will shortly go on to overtake the older hands.
“This result stands out to me from my career so far, along with my European track medal last year and my Irish National title at junior level in last year’s time trial,” he told the ‘LEADER.’
“I still don’t really think I’ve taken it in. I was the underdog but knew I was capable of throwing a spanner in the works and that’s exactly what I did.
“Getting the medal was great for confidence because my season been just OK so far, mainly because of my exams taking a lot of time off my hands.”
Downey was the fastest Espoir rider when he crossed the line in 49 minutes 20 seconds but was, in the end, beaten by winner Ryan Mullen, who famously lost out on the 2014 World TT Championship by just 0.48 of a second, and NFTO professional rider Eddie Dunbar.
“When I found out the results and heard I was third I was a little bit disappointed because I always want to be better,” said the ambitious Banbridge CC cyclist.
“I knew the gold medal was always going to be hard to pick up with Ryan there.
“In second place was a rival that I have gown up racing with over the years. Since Juniors, Eddie has gone on to the pro ranks taking a number of impressive results against pro tour riders.
“I beat Eddie the previous year and couldn’t understand how he beat me this year but then I realised the hours I was sitting in a classroom were the hours he was out on the bike. This just shows the calibre of riders I finished behind.”
The race, which was held in Omagh, north of the border for the first time in 10 years, featured technical sections which had to be approached with caution. The terrain was also not typical of a TT course, with rolling roads and steep climbs in sections.
Nonetheless, Mark had done his home-work before the big race.
“This was the event that I had thought about over the past four months,” he said.
“I had ridden the course prior to the event so I knew the time was going to be made up on the first half of the course.
“At the half way stage I was second overall, 30 seconds down on Eddie and three seconds up on Ryan but I paid for my fast start, dying towards the finish. Looking back, I still wouldn’t have ridden it any different because this was riding to my strengths.
“I had my mum and dad following for extra support and my dad shouted to me that I was flying so I knew I was on it, I just had to concentrate on the job in hand.”
That he did, enough to secure a very credible spot on the podium.
Banbridge CC was also represented in the Para-cycling Championships by Chris Burns who came agonisingly close to a podium finish in the most frustrating of positions; fourth place.
His competition was won by current road and TT World Champion Eoghan Clifford of Galway, again showing the level of riders and competition he was against.
Next up for Mark Downey are the U23 European Track Championships in Athens from 14-19th July, the rider having spent last week training with Team Ireland in Majorca.
For a full build-up to that race, make sure you see next week’s LEADER.